Since 1964, Lana Cakes has served generations of Singaporeans who have grown up indulging in the well-loved chocolate cake. This was the case right up till 2016, when owner Mrs. Violet Kwan decided it was time to retire. Admiringly, her beloved son left his banking career in Tokyo and returned to continue her legacy.
Now aged 93, Mrs. Kwan still looks her best self, sitting in the kitchen of her cake shop nestled at 36 Greenwood Avenue.
The family behind Lana Cakes
As a loving and doting mum, she had no expectations of her children taking over her business. Up till the age of 89, Mrs Kwan had thoroughly enjoyed her baking days, albeit at a slower pace as she got older. Soon, she wanted to slow down and perhaps retire and enjoy life.
Her son, Jason Kwan, had studied abroad and followed his dad’s footsteps in banking, which included living and working some 25 years in banking in Zurich, London, and Tokyo. When he visited Singapore in March 2017, Jason was very sad to see how stressed his mom was over whether to sell or close Lana Cakes down. For the first time, they discussed if he should leave banking and return to Singapore to take over the family business. Thankfully, he chose to pursue the latter.
When I asked her to share the humble beginnings of her baking journey, it was clear that Mrs. Kwan had probably repeated this many times to the media. Nevertheless, with a spark in her eyes, she explained:
My sister-in-law Lani was visiting from Honolulu. She is a good baker and taught me how to bake cakes from chocolate fudge cakes, to blueberry and chiffon cakes. I learned from her up till the day she returned to Hawaii, thereafter I opened a cake shop and named it closely after her.”
Violet Kwan, Owner of Lana Cakes
Lana Cakes dutifully went on for more than five decades and remains a hit across generations.
Passing the baton
Lana Cakes goes beyond being a home-grown name and brand. The beautiful lilac purple cream flowers piped on the chocolate fudge cakes, the traces of purple in the smaller boxes, and the lavender ribbons and colour accents, are all hints of Violet herself.
Certainly, continuing Lana Cakes’ legacy is not easy. Loyal customers have grown up with these cakes at every other celebration, and the bakery’s nostalgic flavours are already etched in their minds. Jason shared that he now has to “make sure the cakes now are as good, or actually even better than what people remember of how Lana Cakes taste like”.
There is much honesty and pertinacity in the second generation’s feat of continuing the legacy. Not just by making the cakes special and unlike anything else out there, but in fact, bringing them to the next level.
Jason’s addition to the range of cakes includes the best selling F.L.O (Fudge Lovers Only) based on Violet Kwan’s famous Chocolate Cake. It is inherently the same cake, but the chiffon is lighter, airier, and promisingly, a lot fudgier.
I would like to keep Lana Cakes artisanal, and not go down the path of mass production. We have good control over the baking process to deliver good, consistent quality cakes.”
Jason Kwan, Owner of Lana Cakes
At this point, a regular customer stepped into the shop to collect her personalized cake. She smiled and shared that she has been getting birthday cakes from Lana Cakes for her child every year. The level of personalization, attention to detail, and love that the family affords— to both their recipes and customers—keep loyal patrons coming back for more.
Having a stand-alone cake shop always seemed charming and beautiful, but it’s most certainly divine and now, legendary. Lana Cakes is a testament to this.
And what was a trip to Lana’s without a treat? I simply couldn’t resist trying Jason’s Fudge Lovers Only (F.L.O.) cake and Violet’s signature chocolate cake. I can certainly taste and feel how Jason has not only retained his mum’s recipe in the cake’s flavours, but has made it even better by adding his own twist.
To me, the airiness of the chiffon boasted an unrivaled texture that was irresistible when paired with the rich chocolate. Tip: let the cake sit at room temperature prior to consumption, so the chocolate fudge sets to perfection.
Jason’s involvement with the business goes beyond managing the shop. He has also introduced Yuzu Indulge—made from Yuzu juice specially imported from Kochi prefecture in Japan, just for Lana Cakes. The Yuzu cake joins the bakery’s selection of Blueberry, Coconut Dream, Mocha Cream and Walnut Torte cakes, allowing customers to savour a wonderful variety of flavors and eat to their hearts’ content.
As the cakes were baking that afternoon, the wafting chocolaty aroma filled our conversation with Jason. Certainly, they rekindled fond memories of a son’s great love for his mother, as well as her hard work and heartening legacy.
Lana Cakes is still the same. The recipe hasn’t changed. This is my mum’s legacy. I wanted to make sure I get it right.”
Jason Kwan, Owner of Lana Cakes
Take our word for it, he truly has gotten it right.